Tori Olds, a therapist at Deep Eddy Psychotherapy in Austin, TX, talks about how effective therapy takes us from explaining to exploring and the journey to self-compassion.
Effective Therapy Moves You From Explaining to Exploring
For me, effective therapy looks like moving from explaining to exploring. This is terminology that my mom—who is also a psychologist—what her mentor developed. What it means is we tend to want to go towards explaining things, but if that’s all we do in therapy, just tell the therapist, “Look, this is what I know about myself already, this is what happened, this is what she did or he did,” if we’re just getting a story out; there’s really nothing actually happening.
However, if we can go into a more exploratory mode, and this has to be trained a little bit, because usually when I help people get there they’ve never been in that mode with themselves before. Or maybe they have tried to analyze themselves, but when they use the word “analyze” I immediately know that they’re probably off-base. Analyzing can be a heady, disconnected kind of thing.
Creating a Real Chance for Slowing Down
Ideally, we’re creating a real chance for slowing down, noticing what’s actually happening in the moment. We want it to be alive and not theoretical. We look at some situation and we say, “Oh, right. I notice when talking about that, right now I got tense, right now I notice I’m getting confused.” We are really exploring it, what’s happening, as it’s emerging. That gives a much more clear perspective on how we work and how we’re wired.
We Have the Information Inside of Us
We have the information inside of us, of course. Sometimes people talk about the right brain or the unconscious or whatever. It’s really there, and this is really true because I see it all of the time. Yet, we don’t always know how to access it. What I do is slow someone down and help them turn a little bit away from just the thinking part and more towards the sensing part. Maybe I’ll ask for an image, or just what comes to mind, or what comes up. We call this “Bottom-Up Processing,” rather than “Top-Down”.
In Therapy We are Looking for What Comes up From Inside
What we’re looking for is what comes up as a realization, or memory, or an emotion. We’re looking for that realization, “Oh, you know, I think it bothers me because of this…” It’s not like applying a theory, it’s just really listening into our psyche a little bit. What comes from that is much more truthful because it’s where all of that memory and those emotional memories are stored. When it comes to that domain it allows a shift away from our analyzing or logical mode.
Letting the Mind Do What It Knows How to Do
Learning to get that information is a big part of what therapy is, and once you’re there, once you’re in that process, it’s about standing back and just letting the person’s mind do it, letting it do what it knows how to do, what it needs to do to resolve, or have a new insight. As it becomes conscious then it’s ripe for new insight, or a new experience to emerge. I’ll hear, “Oh, this image captures this part that never got support before.” Then another image comes in, “Oh, I want to do this to resolve that,” and then another avenue of process around that emerges, opens up process that then they can do later.
For instance with self-compassion, one might learn to ask, “What would it be like to give myself compassion there?” Effective therapy is very experiential, in the moment, and it’s really about learning, not just talking about things you already know.
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